Some African leaders love power so much that they would rather die than hand over to someone else. Some have gone as far as changing their country’s constitution and extending presidential terms.
They fight to remain in power even when they know they have little or nothing to offer the people.
Only a few have voluntarily ceded power or resisted the temptation to change the constitution to suit their desire to remain in power for life. Why do African leaders cling onto power instead of handing power?
The Gambia is currently embroiled in political turmoil as its sitting president, Yahya Jammeh, has refused to step down for the president-elect Adama Barrow. He lost the election but has refused to let go of power. He has been given midday deadline to go as ECOWAS troops have already entered The Gambia through Senegal to force him out of office.
Before Jammeh, some other African leaders had towed that path.
Below are African leaders who refused to cede power after losing an election but failed.
1. Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d'Ivoire
He was president from 2000 until his arrest in April 2011. Gbagbo, whose mandate had expired in 2005, delayed the election several times, precisely six times. In November 28, 2010, the second round of the presidential election that saw Gbagbo face off with Alassane Ouattara was held. The Ivorian Election Commission (CEI) declared Ouattara the winner with 54.1% of the vote. He was victory was recognized by the international community, the African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States but Gbagbo challenged the vote count, alleging fraud. A deadly four-month post-election crisis followed the incumbent president’s refusal to hand over power and more than 3,000 people lost their lives.
After failed negotiations to end the presidential succession crisis, forces loyal to Ouattara supported by the French and UN army moved to seize Gbagbo at his residence in Abidjan on April 11, 2011. Ouattara was sworn in as president on May 21, 2011. In November 2011, he was extradited to the International Criminal Court, becoming the first head of state to be taken into the court's custody.
2. Didier Ratsiraka of Madagascar
He was president from 1975 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2002. He ran for the presidency in the 2001 election but took second place. The government said his rival Marc Ravalomanana won first place with 46% while Ratsiraka took 40%. No candidate won a majority and a runoff was to take place but it was never held due to disputes over the election. Ratsiraka declined to concede defeat while Ravalomanana refused to organise a second round of voting. The island nation was plunged into seven months of violence and chaos and paralysed by protests. The political crisis split the country in two, with two capitals, two governments, and a divided army until Ravalomanana was officially proclaimed president in April 2002 and sworn in on May 6, with Ratsiraka still disputing the result.
Ratsiraka largely maintained control over the provinces and established himself at Toamasina. However, Ravalomanana conquered the whole of the territory within a few months and Ratsiraka started an 11-year exile in France.